Members Remember

Three Bookplates by Frank Marjason

By Richard King, Member no. 15

An excerpt from THE NEW AUSTRALIAN BOOKPLATE SOCIETY Newsletter No. 62, September 2021

In 1989 to mark his 70th birthday, the Wagner Society of New South Wales commissioned a bookplate for Richard Wagner’s grandson Wolfgang Wagner (1919-2010) from Sydney printmaker Frank Marjason (1914-2011). I had known the artist’s mother when I was young; Gladys Marjason was also an exceptional artist in her own right. In the 1950s she was a great mentor to me, opening doors to the art world and artists of Sydney, and no doubt laying the foundations for my own journey into music and the arts. Frank was at that time a teacher of printmaking and drawing at Willoughby Workshop Arts Centre on Sydney’s lower North Shore.

Christmas parties remembered

The Society has held regular Christmas parties; the first was a picnic at Ball’s Head Park on 20 November 1983, which was followed on 15 November 1985 by a cocktail party and short film at the Goethe Institut. Christmas parties have been held nearly every year since, at the Goethe Institut and other venues, at first with guest speakers and from 2012 with recitals. 


Some features of Christmas parties 

These have included competitions, raffles, the Wagner market place, the Wagner bazaar and book sales.


Cakes baked by Barbara Brady

Remembering 'an alternative bayreuth'

By Jean Louis Stuurop, Member no. 75

As part of the occasional remembering of the Society’s history under the Swan Lines logo, we reproduce here from the Society Newsletter No. 4 September 1981 the invitation from Jean Louis Stuurop, on behalf of the committee, to attend an “Alternative Bayreuth” at the Concordia Club in Stanmore, Sydney, starting on 18 October 1981 with 'Der fliegende Holländer'. From this small beginning a major tradition of our Society has grown.

Remembering the first decade

By Leona Geeves, Member no. 87

Thinking back over the 40 years of the Wagner Society in NSW made me realise that it has been part of my life for almost the whole of that time – at first in attending events and more lately organising those events – talks and concerts, and seminars, and promoting young singers and working out the processes by which we can assist them, by approving the applications for funding from young and emerging singers and creatives.


Our 25th anniversary (2005)

Chronology and significant events

President’s Introduction

Our Newsletter editor, Terence Watson, has scoured our Newsletters and produced a list of committee members and officeholders and related historical information from the Society’s beginning to the present. I had hoped that we could also publish a complete list of all the Society’s members, from Betty Maloney (member number 1) to Tim Green (our newest member, number 933), but unfortunately our recent past includes a period in which records were misplaced or destroyed, and this has not been possible.

Our logos

The original 'swan' logo of the Wagner Society in NSW which is pictured below was designed by founding member Michel Arnould at the Foundation meeting on 26 October 1980.


It appeared in our Newsletters from 1981 until 2012.

About Joseph Ferfoglia

Joseph Ferfoglia, Member no. 45
By Roger Cruickshank, Member no. 669

In Memoriam: Joseph Ferfoglia

I heard third-hand, a few months ago, that Joseph Ferfoglia had died. I met Joseph and his second wife, Judy, through the Wagner Society, and we became good friends in a period late in their lives, before the slow descent into old age shut them off from the world. I thought I should gather together some of the fragments I recall of Joseph (and Judy), in a vaguely chronological order, so that they weren’t lost, at least for a little while.

A personal reminiscence

By Esteban Insausti, Member no. 433

In the Wagner Quarterly 158 (September 2020), new President Esteban Insausti used his first report to say a little about himself, as well as attempt to explain why he has been a member of the Society for some 33 years (joined in 1987 – member number 433):

The story of Alec and Aviva, and how the musical blood runs through the family

Alec and Aviva Cohen, Members No. 355
By Jessica Harper about her grandparents-in-law

Alec and Aviva Cohen lived in Roseville, Sydney in a beautiful house surrounded by nature and gardens.

Alec’s love of Wagner was initially nurtured by his first connections with a certain Mr. Whitfield or ’Mr. Whitty’ whom he met upon entering university in Perth, and who gathered students around to listen to the great classics on his record player. He shared this newfound passion with his numerous siblings, who were similarly taken. Their shared love of classical music was to remain a firm bond among the siblings for the duration of their long lives.

A Page from the History of Wagner in Australia

By Phillip Bennett: Member no. 925

As part of the Newsletter's ad hoc project to record aspects of the history of Wagner performances in NSW and people's personal experiences within that larger history, I am pleased to bring you a reminiscence from Mr Phillip Bennett, retired of Taree:

Growing up in a small country town during the mid to late 1940's wasn't exactly an ideal place to develop a love for the music-dramas of Richard Wagner. Books on the subject would have been almost non-existent, as were recordings. There certainly weren't any society lectures and I doubt if many people in the town would have heard of Richard Wagner let alone be familiar with his music.

Another Page from the History of Wagner in Australia

By Kevin Mills: member number ??

We are pleased to be able to present another chapter in our continuing occasional series on the impact of Wagner on the lives of people in and around Sydney. This issue’s story is from a now retired singer who worked for many years with the Australian Opera as well as in overseas companies. As with Phillip Bennett, Kevin Mills stumbled onto Wagner at an early age and was also transformed for life by the experience.

Memories of Wagner and Christmas


Merry Christmas

Christmas always played an important role in Richard Wagner’s life. The two women he loved most, Mathilde Wesendonck and Cosima von Bülow, both were born around Christmas, on 23 and 24 December respectively, and used to celebrate their birthdays on 25 December together with Christmas. 

25 December (Christmas Day) 1830: The first premiere of a piece by Wagner - the lost Paukenschlagouverture in B-Flat major, WWV 10.